Unless I’m mistaken, the Sufjan Stevens song that I strongly associate with Call Me By Your Name — “Mystery of Love” — isn’t in the film itself, but in the trailer. Am I right? The Stevens song that is actually in the film is “Visions of Gideon.” Please correct me if I’m wrong. The best Call Me By Your Name moment was the first viewing, nine months ago at the Sundance Film Festival. The second time was nearly as good but less special. The third time even more so. But it’s always like that.
As ultra-violent prison dramas go, Steven Craig Zahler‘s Brawl in Cell Block 99 pushes the envelope and really wails in a crazy caveman sort of way. The most rancid bad guys pay for their awfulness in the worst way when their arms and legs are snapped like twigs and their heads are pounded upon and opened up with all kinds of glistening brain matter spilling out. Somebody called it “a grade-A piece of meathead cinema.” I’ll go along with that.
It gets really hardcore in the third act. I mean really hardcore. I was watching it last night on Amazon and going “Jesus H. Christ…this is fetishy!” A lot of bruising hand-to-hand action. Fisticuffs, beatdowns, bone-snappings, eye-gougings.
And it’s a very right-wing thing. Zahler and Vaughn are serious righties (i.e., libertarians) in the Mel Gibson vein but not, as far as I know, Trumpies. And boy, are they into idolizing and protecting mothers and unborn children! I only know that the more a movie idolizes a loyal pregnant wife and the more the pregnant wife is threatened by sadistic villains, the more right-wing it is. Protect the pregnant mom with a big club! Protect the children, protect the bloodline!
The thing is that Brawl in Cell Block 99 is exceptionally well-made, and as uncomfortable as I am with head-squashing movies I have to at least convey respect for Zahler’s craft.
On top of which it establishes Vince Vaughn as the reigning right-wing action hero of the moment — a six-foot-five Mr. Clean who speaks quietly and politely with a gentle Southern accent and who thoroughly thinks things over before pounding guys and squashing skulls. It’s not really my kind of movie, but it’s kind of Zen in its approach to character and payoff. It takes its time, takes its time. Liam “paycheck” Neeson has announced that he’s finished with this kind of film. Vaughn is the right-wing heir apparent, a kind of successor to Clint Eastwood.
If anyone wants to make a new series of 21st Century Harry Callahan movies, a new manifestation of a right-wing rogue cop or soldier of fortune who despises p.c. lefties but plays it straight and clear on a personal basis, Vaughn is the guy to play it. It just needs to be understood that Zahler knows how to apply the right kind of discipline in the making of this kind of film, and that Vaughn knows how to play it cool and steady as he waits for the inevitable bad shit to happen. Badass bone-snapper. I will make you whine and beg for death.
Paul Koestner‘s pant-worthy 35mm capturings have already sold me on Louis C.K.‘s I Love You, Daddy (The Orchard, 11.17). I’m obviously aware of the aggregate scores (69% on Metacritic, 57% on Rotten Tomatoes) but I’m not overly concerned.
From Sara Stewart’s N.Y. Post review: “Artistically, it’s gorgeous, with a soaring original orchestral score and the look of an old Hollywood classic. But its barbed screenplay is unapologetically filthy, with scenes like a comedian (Charlie Day) furiously pantomime-masturbating as CK’s TV-writer character Glen Topher talks to a famous actress (Rose Byrne) on the phone, or Chloe Grace Moretz, as Glen’s spoiled 17-year-old daughter China, sitting on Glen’s lap cooing the film’s title phrase and lounging around the house in a bikini.”
Sidenote: Chloe Grace Moretz is only 20 years old. (21 on 2.10.18.) She’s always seemed physically unexceptional to me, and so I was puzzled when I read Moretz’s complaint about having been fat-shamed by a costar when she was 15. (Her remarks appeared in Elizabeth Wagmeister’s Variety interview, posted on 8.8.17.) The ghost of Maximilien Robespierre has never seemed more threatening than it is right now, so it’s probably safer to not express a thought that came to mind when I watched this trailer.
“Donald Trump, after one relatively mild response to the Harvey Weinstein story, has more or less ignored it, and the reason why is obvious. It raises the spectre of his own egregious misbehavior: the Access Hollywood tape, the rank misogyny of his attacks on Megyn Kelly, and the on-the-record allegations of harassment by multiple women — all of which, when it first occurred, a lot of people were sure was going to cost Trump the election.
“It should be shocking, even in hindsight, that it didn’t, yet as we all know, the definition of the Trump era is that yesterday’s shock value is today’s shrug, and the more the cycle of shock/adjustment/new normal takes place, the more it leaves the public — I almost said the audience — numb.” — from Owen Gleiberman‘s “Are Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump the Same Person?,” a 10.18 Variety essay.
Jett is visiting Los Angeles for three or four days, and last night we sat down at an Indian place on Montana. We spoke at one point about how quickly the Las Vegas massacre has already evaporated. Blood, horror, carnage, brain matter, dead tissue…the ultimate expression of U.S. gun insanity, and it’s already gone away. Yesterday’s shock is today’s “hey, remember that awful thing that everyone was so upset about…?”
Criterion’s forthcoming Breakfast Club Bluray (1.2.18) feels like a cultural curio. Like their 2008 Armageddon DVD, it’s one of their gesture releases — an attempt to persuade the physical-media-owning world that Criterion product isn’t entirely about catering to elitist Richard Brody-level dweeb favorites and sensibilities, and that it does have a populist bone or two in its body and they understand that every so often mainstream popularity actually counts for something or other.
Everyone regards this John Hughes high-school dramedy (released on 2.15.85) as some kind of Brat Pack or Reagan-era landmark thing. It is that, I suppose. An ’80s fetish thing. If you were to give me 15 minutes to list the most culturally significant films of the ’80s, I would probably include The Breakfast Club on the lower third of the list. Risky Business would be in the upper third, and in fact near the top. Don’t even think about mentioning these two films in the same breath.
The Breakfast Club was decently shot by Thomas Del Ruth, but it’s not like Del Ruth set the world on fire with what he captured. (I’m sure he’s a nice guy but his no-great-shakes resume speaks for itself.) It looks fine but calm down. Plus it was released theatrically and offered as a Universal Home Video 30th Anniversary Bluray two years ago. Criterion’s Bluray comes from a new “4K restoration,” but you and I know it won’t look all that different from the 2015 version.
One of the reasons Criterion is putting out a Breakfast Club Bluray, at least in part, is that last year it was “selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant’,” blah blah.
In the HE realm the final measure of quality or importance is whether I, Jeffrey Wells of West Hollywood, have ever re-watched The Breakfast Club since I attended a Westwood all-media screening 32 and 3/4 years ago. The answer is “no, I have not.” And that includes ignoring the 30th anni re-release, the Universal Bluray and the streaming opportunities.
My reasons can be summed up as “it’s an okay, moderately winning film but let’s not get too excited…it’s just a clever, occasionally on-target Hughes slider that accurately reflects certain modes of alienation known to the ’80s high-school mindset ….zeitgeisty and conceptually catchy as far as it went, okay, and yes, it launched or re-enforced the careers of Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall and Ally Sheedy (but not Judd Nelson‘s), and…I don’t know, is there anything else?
How much of a “bump” does Criterion’s Barry Lyndon Bluray provide? A modest one — the enhanced colors and slightly finer detail don’t exactly blow you against the back wall, but they’re noticable. It’s in no way a letdown, but it’s a wee bit short of a knockout. (If you’re familiar with the 2011 Warner Home Video Bluray version, I mean — side by side the Criterion is superior but only by a horse-length or two.) What attracted me, whether I imagined it or not, is the vivid, well-layered sound. Michael Hordern‘s voice sounds extra-rich and deep and buttery. 4K scan, 1080p, 1.66:1 aspect ratio. As good as this film is ever going to look, short of the 4K version that will probably come along within two or three years.
Over the last few days bathrobes have become associated with icky predatory behavior. I’ve always hated them for reasons of my own. I’ve never owned or worn a bathrobe my entire life; I’ve never even worn one during an occasional stay in a hotel. A few years ago a friend gifted me with a black silk kimono she’d recently bought in Japan. I thanked her from the bottom of my heart but felt obliged to add there was no chance I’d ever wear it. There’s something soft and sissy-lounge about guys who wear robes.
No — these aren’t stills from the riot scenes in Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal‘s Detroit. Rather, insane as it sounds, this is all that’s left of Sasha Stone‘s SUV after it was torched last night, probably by some teenaged pyromaniac. Thank God her insurance will cover a replacement but what kind of feral, foam-at-the-mouth animal would do this kind of thing?
If, as the head of Lucasfilm marketing, I’d been recently ordered to come up with a title for Ron Howard, Kathy Kennedy, Phil Lord and Chris Miller‘s Han Solo film, I would have left work early on Friday. The idea would have been to withdraw from the hurly burly and think long and hard. I would make myself a pot of green tea, shut off all electronic devices, put on a Japanese robe and sandals and take long walks through the woods and along the beach.
“What to call it?,” I would ask myself over and over. “Yes, a three-year-old would have suggested Solo, and yes, I understand how the simplest approach can sometimes be the best one. But I wouldn’t want to adopt a lazy attitude. I’d want the title to be a pure and poetically perfect distillation of the Han Solo mythology.”
The answer might have hit me immediately or it might have taken all weekend, but by Sunday night my decision would be firm — Solo: A Stars Wars Tale.
“It was my reaction to Alden Ehrenreich‘s performance in Alexandre Moors‘ The Yellow Birds, which I saw at last January’s Sundance Film Festival, that convinced me he won’t be a good Solo. Aldenriech just doesn’t have that presence, that Harrison Ford cock-of-the-walk cool. There’s just something about Ehrenreich that feels guarded and clenched.”
Posted on 1.22.17: “Where In The Valley of Elah had the great Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron butting heads while looking into the stateside death of Jones’ son, The Yellow Birds mostly just wades into the frosty expressions and general lethargy of Ehrenreich’s Bartie — a guy I had zero interest in and didn’t want to hang out with.
“The reason is Ehrenreich himself. He simply lacks that X-factor magnetism that popular lead actors all have. Charming as he was in Hail Caesar!, this beady-eyed fellow doesn’t have ‘it’ — he’s always wearing the same sullen, hiding-out, stone-faced expression, no matter what kind of situation or character he’s playing. He never lifted off the ground or stepped out of bounds in Rules Don’t Apply. I’ll be seriously surprised if he turns out to be a great Han Solo as that Harrison Ford sexy-rogue quality just isn’t in him.”
“In defense of his claim that President Barack Obama didn’t call the loved ones of fallen soldiers, President Trump told Fox News Radio today that reporters [should] ask his chief of staff, retired Gen. John Kelly, whether Obama called him after his son Robert died in Afghanistan in 2010.
“Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, was a lieutenant general at the time.
“‘As far as other presidents, I don’t know, you could ask Gen. Kelly, did he get a call from Obama? I don’t know what Obama’s policy was,’ Trump said.” — from CNN report, filed today at 9:56 am Pacific.
We’re all here together on the same planet, sharing space and trying to be kind and maybe make some things happen. Nobody’s better or worse than anyone else, but it’s not unfair to explore the overall with a sudden-death calculus. If Harvey Weinstein were to die in a plane crash today, some might argue that the world would be a slightly better place. If Kyle Buchanan, Kris Tapley or Scott Feinberg‘s luck were to suddenly run out, the film industry would be a less quantifiable place. If Oliver Stone or Paul Schrader were to fall off a 200-foot cliff, film culture would suddenly have less wit and dimension. If Saoirse Ronan were to get hit by a bus, we’d all be short a Best Actress contender. If Irving the plumber catches a stray bullet, a lot of sinks, bathtubs and toilets wouldn’t function as well. But if Kris Jenner, Kourtney Kardashian, Kim Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian, Kendall Jenner and Kylie Jenner were to die in a plane crash tomorrow, in what way would the world suddenly be a lesser place? Be honest.
If you’re any kind of cinema hound the crisp, super-detailed capturings from 35mm big-studio films of the classic era should at least give you a semi-stiffie. If they don’t then what can I say? There’s something missing inside you, and there’s no medicine or special diet or surgery than can fix this. And I’m no fan of Sergeant York, mind. Even when I was a kid I found it dreary and sanctimonious, excepting that one portion when Gary Cooper kills several German soldiers and single-handedly captures over 100 of them, etc. But I love the cinematography by Sol Polito, whose other credits include Archie Mayo‘s The Petrified Forest and a slew of Michael Curtiz films including The Adventures of Robin Hood, Angels With Dirty Faces, The Sea Hawk and Captains of the Clouds (Academy Award for Best Color Cinematography) plus Irving Rapper‘s Now, Voyager and Frank Capra‘s Arsenic and Old Lace. A new Bluray is available in the European PAL format, but nothing for NTSC viewers.
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